Car crooks a ‘serious threat to public safety’, police chief tells Mississauga summit


Published March 20, 2024 at 6:56 pm

Peel Regional Police Auto Theft Summit 2024 in Mississauga.
Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah told an auto theft summit held in Mississauga that car thieves are becoming more violent.

Police across Ontario, the car and car insurance industry and the federal government all must up their game and work together if they’re to keep the fast-growing problem of auto theft from spiraling out of control, a Mississauga summit heard on Wednesday.

“Organized auto theft has become an epidemic across many jurisdictions in Ontario and it has escalated into a complex national issue impacting the safety and well-being of our communities,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said at the conclusion of the second annual Peel police Auto Theft Summit, held at the Hyatt Mississauga and attended by more than 150 participants.

“While we continue to dedicate significant policing resources and see positive results in the work, we also need solutions from government and automotive and insurance industries to vulnerabilities that are contributing to auto theft.”

The one-day brainstorming session that took direct aim at what has become one of the top three revenue generators for criminal organizations once again welcomed police chiefs, other senior law enforcement brass, government officials, representatives from the car and car insurance industries and other stakeholders to the table to talk about ways to stamp out car thefts.

Whether vehicles are stolen from parking lots or people’s driveways while they sleep or taken via violent carjackings and home invasions, the criminal activity has ramped up dramatically in recent years — particularly in Mississauga and Brampton as well as other GTA municipalities.

At the end of the day, summit participants agreed to push Ottawa for strengthened enforcement at crucial ports of entry and targeted legislation and sanctions to curb organized crime.

In Peel alone, more than 7,400 vehicles were reported stolen in 2023, an average of about 600 per month.

Both police and municipal politicians in Mississauga — as well as their counterparts across the GTA and beyond — have said it’s simply too easy for crooks to steal luxury SUVs and cars from across the GTA and then quickly move them overseas via the Port of Montreal for significant financial gain.

Additionally, summit attendees are seeking continued and improved collaboration between police services, auto manufacturers, insurance bureaus and government partners to build greater awareness about auto theft and how to fight it.

York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween, also president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said organized auto theft is among the top three revenue generators for criminal organizations.

“It represents a growing and serious threat to public safety and puts police officers at risk as individuals committing these crimes are using increasingly dangerous ways to evade capture and eventual arrest,” he continued. “Our police services are working together with governments, community groups and corporate partners to find effective solutions to this criminal al activity.”

Other law enforcement agencies represented at the summit included OPP, Durham Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, Hamilton Police, Niagara Regional Police, Toronto Police and the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario.

“The summit is a platform for law enforcement agencies, government officials, auto manufacturers, the insurance industry and advocates to collectively tackle the issue and address vulnerabilities that are contributing to auto crimes,” summit organizers said in a news release.

Stolen vehicles worth a combined $545 million have been recovered since 2019 across the GTA and beyond

In 2023, collective data from the OPP and police in Peel, Toronto, York, Durham, Hamilton, Niagara and Ottawa showed a 116 per cent increase in stolen vehicles since 2019.

Combined in all of those jurisdictions, 15,757 stolen vehicles were recovered, valued at more than $545 million, police say.

In Peel alone, more than 7,400 vehicles were reported stolen in 2023, an average of about 600 per month. And over the last two years, 185 carjackings were reported in Mississauga and Brampton, one of which resulted in a murder.

On the heels of this week’s summit, Peel police will host another big event later in the spring aimed at cracking down on car thefts — one with a broader, more international scope.

The 51st annual Vehicle Crimes Conference, staged by Peel cops in collaboration with the U.S.-based Northeast Regional Chapter of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, will take place May 6-9 at the Mississauga Convention Centre.

The four-day event will feature numerous guest speakers, workshops and other components all geared toward fighting the growing crime of auto theft in Peel, the GTA and southern Ontario, and across North America, organizers say.

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